What to Read, Watch, and Play During Your 4/20 Celebration

Every smoke session deserves a little entertainment magic.
Every smoke session deserves a little entertainment magic. New Times Archive
Another 4/20 is upon us. When it comes to celebrating, you have a few different options. Maybe you'll eat a giant meal. Or, head to a concert or nightclub. You might also just spend the evening staring at a wall. But if you're tired of all that, then here's something fairly novel: pair that pot du jour with a comic, film, and/or video game. Our list of pairings is perfectly curated to make the most of your trip to the upper stratosphere (and maybe even push you further into newer, stranger territories). Either way, they're the perfect way to tickle your emotions, uncover new feats of beauty, and maybe even discover something novel about yourself. The only downside? They don't come with snacks or a Big Gulp.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Image Comics

Here, writer Matt Fraction had a most unenviable task: plotting and telling a "gender-bent re-imagination of Homer's The Odyssey." Luckily, he had a major assist thanks to the amazing efforts of artist Christian Ward. It's Ward's psychedelic efforts — with heavy emphasis on these vivid, dreamlike bursts of color and otherworldly characterizations across an oversized sci-fi universe — that bridges the story's origins with its lofty new goals. It's under the, let's say, influence where this whole thing shapes from a head trip to a true existential experience, one where the pages demand your attention. You can almost feel this story crawling off the page and into your heart, and it's a tale that sticks in the very crevices of your brain.

The Incal

The Incal
Writer-artist Alejandro Jodorowsky first released The Incal back in 1988. And since then, it's become a kind of lingua franca for sci-fi stories across comics, TV, film, novels, et cetera. With his graceful, efficient line work, and extra-keen eye for effective colors, Jodorowsky crafted a surreal story about a young man, John Difool, and his totally bonkers journey as an unlikely hero. Jodorowsky's designs are maddening feats whether sober or stoned — they’re big and expansive, with a certain heft and whimsy, while very much tied to certain cultural and aesthetic pillars. It's a massive world that's as terrifying and utterly alien as it is somehow warm and inviting — it's a true journey for all readers brave enough to flip to the next page.

Vertical Comics

If you've never read a manga before, even trying to sort out the book's layout can be a doozy. (Remember: you're going from right to left.) Fortunately for any newbies, Hiroyuki Seshita's seminal BLAME! offers you plenty of time to wander through the story at your own pace. You'll most certainly want just that as we follow the enigmatic Killy as he wanders through The City, a massive megastructure occupied by vast open spaces and brutalist architecture. As the book moves and shifts, you bounce between feeling claustrophobic and utterly incognizant — a visceral, almost physical experience. Plus, if you get lost and/or overwhelmed, just flip back a few pages and find a safe spot to gawk at for an hour or so.

click to enlarge
We Only Find Them When They're Dead
BOOM! Studios

We Only Find Them When They're Dead
So, just who is the titular "they?" Why that’d be massive space gods, who like giant whales are rendered down for their many resources by roving bands of space merchants. But it gets so much more bonkers than even that, as the story itself delivers something truly thoughtful. Writer Al Ewing crafts a tale that’s equal parts murder mystery and a poignant sci-fi epic exploring this very specific universe and economic system. Meanwhile, artist Simone Di Meo manages to both capture the scale and majesty of these "god hunters" and expertly emphasize the layers of interpersonal drama. It’s an experience that plays around with your sense of scope and gravity, and it'll leave you wondering who really are the monsters after all.


Psycho Goreman
If you're partaking in some pot, you may want something that scratches a few itches. And that's what Psycho Goreman does. This story of young kids controlling an evil space monster is equal parts coming-of-age, horror, action-adventure, and comedy — all told through a deliberately and delightfully cheesy lens. Sure, the ample body horror might be too much for some, but everything's done with a proper wink to make it all feel like some grand joke that we're all in on (mostly). It's an experience that's about placating our love of nostalgia and playing with our cultural sensibilities to make something new and compelling. If it also happens to be a little dumb and silly to boot, then it's just all the more rewarding.

Moulin Rouge!
Of all the titles on this list, this is the one that's seemingly the least verbose and vivid in its weirdness and all-around eccentricities. But that doesn't mean this groundbreaking 2000s musical extravaganza isn't still a rush of life-affirming joy. From the immaculate sets and exaggerated costumes to the range of the songs and the cheesy-but-sincere acting from the entire cast, Moulin Rouge! is a scattershot of sensations and ideas that will make almost anyone actively swoon. It can feel a little dated in parts — it's so unabashedly 2001 — and perhaps is the most on-brand title from writer-director Baz Luhrmann. But then that's the whole point of it, and it welcomes you to the big show with massive, loving arms.

Princess Mononoke
If you watch only one film — heck, consume any fictional property in general — while fully and totally stoned, make sure it's Princess Mononoke. Creator Hayao Miyazaki is at his most efficient and effective in this darling and spiritually uplifting tale of a prince, Ashitaka, trying to save the day in a battle amid the forest gods and selfish human clans. From the way reality and fantasy blur to the heartfelt ideas of heroism and personal responsibility, and even the breathtaking pace and plotting of this genuine epic tale, it will tickle the earliest, most sentimental parts of your brain. In fact, it might actually be too much heart and magic for some folks, and that kind of rush of earnestness is obviously worth chasing after.

Cemetery Man
If you want a movie that watches you as much as you watch it, this unheralded horror classic from Italy's Michele Soavi is the one. Starring a pre-My Best Friend's Wedding Rupert Everett, it's about a caretaker who may or may not have to re-kill the deceased within the weird lil' town of Buffalora. The movie does a splendid job of playing not only with the confines of horror and slapstick comedy, but doing so in a way that makes the audience question the very nature of truth and reality. You'll likely go back and forth about what, if anything, is true in the zombie-killing routine of Everett's Francesco Dellamorte (and his faithful sidekick, Gnaghi), and that confusion and uncertainty is a genuinely delightful experience. Just don’t sit too close to the TV as you try to crack this existential little Rubik's Cube.

Video Games

Far Cry 5
If you're unfamiliar, the Far Cry series is basically, "Hey, some bad guy took over (your town/tropical island/etc.) and you, the unexpecting hero, have to save the day." Yet in that rather formulaic approach, the game generates some real magic, and that's doubly true in its fifth edition. As you tackle the rather heady mission of freeing a town from a doomsday cult, you'll be able to team up with a grizzly bear; fly a floatplane into a dogfight; and battle cultists under the influence of a drug called Bliss. And that's only a teeny tiny segment of this bonkers gameplay that both celebrates classic action titles while subverting the genre and your accompanying expectations. Seriously, the bear's name is Cheeseburger, and he's your BFF.

No Man’s Sky
Sure, if you've followed popular games in recent years, you may recognize No Man’s Sky. It got a lot of guff from fans after an abysmal early launch that was heavy on promises and light on actual results. But that was then, and thanks to various patches and updates, you can now enjoy a seemingly infinite universe as the captain of a star cruiser. Want to get into a dog fight above a glowing moon? Go nuts. Maybe you want to explore a world with weird dino-monsters? You can do that too! Even if you just want to wander a quiet galaxy all on your own, this game fosters a profound, almost comforting level of tailored immersion. You may get lost in the big, wide expanse, but then that's sort of the point of it all, isn't it?

FAR: Changing Tides
Don't assume that you need some triple-A game to really make the most of your next trip. FAR: Changing Tides is a hugely atmospheric game where you maintain and pilot a boat in a seemingly waterlogged dystopia. (Think The Road meets Howl's Moving Castle meets Waterworld.) In parts, the game can be tedious, as you fix your flimsy vessel amid a series of puzzles. (How's that for a metaphor for existence?) But in those moments, you can almost get lost in the entire, overly involved process — and there's a level of joy and fulfillment as you try and get better at juggling your many tasks. Plus, you can always explore the quaint, waterlogged towns and villages if you decide to just give it all up for a short time.

Okay, try and follow along the best you can. Deathloop is your average first-person shooter — except you have to go through a kind of Groundhog Day-style jaunt to kill a cabal that's basically holding you, the hero, captive in a temporal loop on an island. That means replaying the same day-long cycle again and again as you try and sort out the mystery at large and shuffle loose all eight "Visionaries" before everything resets. It's a lot to balance even while sober, but it's also not too much of a juggling act when stoned. If anything, it makes for a super trippy, time-sucking experience that will have you lost in the very best way. Perhaps your altered perceptions might even make you more effective in your time-shuffling mission? 
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan

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